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Libel case dropped against science writer

19 April 2010
Appeared in BioNews 554

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has dropped its libel action against science writer Simon Singh.

The BCA sued Dr Singh in 2008 over a newspaper article published in The Guardian in which he claimed it 'happily promotes bogus treatments'. The case became a rallying point for scientists, writers and others concerned about the effect of UK libel laws on free speech and the discussion of scientific evidence.

'Other scientists, science writers, bloggers, investigative journalists, human rights activists - all get threatened with these libel suits', Dr Singh told BBC News. 'And at the end of the day, the people who lose out are the general public because we don't get to find out the real truth because these libel suits just stop good journalism'.

Dr Singh won his appeal earlier this month against an earlier judgment by Mr Justice Eady on the libel case in May 2009. Justice Eady had said Dr Singh's comments were facts that he would have to prove in court, and the implications of his remarks were that the BCA were knowingly promoting 'bogus treatments'.

However, the Court of Appeal disagreed. Giving the leading judgment, Lord Justice Sedley said that Mr Justice Eady had 'erred'. In his full judgment on the case, Sedley LJ said Dr Singh's remarks were 'honest opinion' that was 'backed by reasons' drawn from the academic literature. In his opinion, the case had 'almost certainly had a chilling effect on public debate which might otherwise have assisted potential patients to make informed choices about the possible use of chiropractic procedures'.

In a statement from the BCA, quoted by BBC News Online, the Association explained its decision to drop the case: 'While it still considers that the article was defamatory of the BCA, the [recent appeal] decision provides Dr Singh with a defence such that the BCA has taken the view that it should withdraw to avoid further legal costs being incurred by either side'.

According to BBC News, Dr Singh spent more than £100,000 on his defence - how the costs will be settled is yet to be decided.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Chiropractors' libel case dropped against Simon Singh
BBC News |  15 April 2010
Science writer Simon Singh wins libel appeal
BBC News |  04/10
Simon Singh appeal: the full judgment
Guardian |  04/10
Simon Singh libel case dropped
Guardian |  15 April 2010
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